Singing is a huge part of what we do as worship leaders. Yet most of us never received any formal training on how to properly use our voice. This leads to a lack of range, power, control, and endurance; none of which are good when leading others in song!  Thankfully all of these problems can be corrected by some simple training.  Charmaine Brown from The Worship Vocalist joins us this month to share how we can strengthen and improve our own voices, and also lead our background singers to sing. better as well! 

Definitely send this episode to all the singers on your team! Enjoy!

The Worship Vocalist

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Alex Enfiedjian 00:09 Hello, friend, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, your host, and I’m so stoked that you are here investing in yourself and in your leadership and in your church by learning and growing, and continuing to expand your understanding of what it means to be a worship leader. Couple of things I wanted to tell you about before we get into the episode. Number one, we are now on YouTube. Well, actually, we’ve always been on YouTube, but we never really released video content on YouTube. But I decided to just start putting these interviews up on YouTube in an unedited format. You may or may not know this, but I spent a lot of time editing these episodes, I try to chop out anything that is unnecessary, anything that will waste your time, or make the point that the speaker is trying to make less clear. Like what I just said, that wasn’t very clear. I basically chopped out anything that’s unnecessary. So you get the most impact in the least amount of time. But some of you probably liked to be on YouTube, you like to see the guest speaking. So I as of three months ago began putting these episodes on YouTube in video format completely unedited. So you just get the real raw conversation and you get to hear anything that was chopped out of the audio version of the podcast. So if you want to see the videos, you can go to slash worship ministry training slash worship ministry training, and you can subscribe to YouTube as well. All right, and the second thing I want to tell you about is our brand new courses for worship leaders. Look, most worship leaders don’t get any training whatsoever, they just get put in charge. And so if you struggle with bad team culture difficult team members, maybe you don’t know how to build an amazing worship set. Maybe you aren’t even sure what the role and goal of a worship leader is supposed to be. Or maybe your church just stares blankly at you and does not engage whatsoever if you have any of those problems. I have four brand new courses for you. You can get them at worship ministry training comm slash courses. And you can get 25% off the courses by entering the promo code WM t podcast at checkout that will get you 25% off. Also, if you are a worship leader in a developing country, like somewhere in Asia or Africa or the Middle East or Central America, I would love to give you these courses for free. At the bottom of the courses page you will see in the FAQ section. A little question about scholarships go ahead click that fill out the form and I will give you the courses absolutely free. So those are the announcements for this month’s episode. In today’s conversation, I’m talking with Charmaine brown from the worship vocalist calm, and she’s going to be sharing a whole bunch of vocal tips on how you can strengthen your voice and also how you can help your singers on your team strengthen and find more confidence in their voices. So it’s a great conversation. Let’s dive right in with Charmaine brown from the worship vocalist calm. Hey everybody, I am here with Charmaine brown from the worship vocalist. Hello, Charmaine, how you doing? Hey, hey, good, good. Charmaine, tell us a little bit about what you do with your ministry.

Charmaine Brown 03:09 Sure, yeah. My husband and I started the worship vocalist back in late 2016. And we create vocal training for worship leaders. And it’s grown from one video at the start to many, many videos, many courses and get to interact with worship teams, lots of worship leaders all around the world. It’s awesome. I love it.

Alex Enfiedjian 03:33 Yes, you are world famous, actually are world famous. I guess everybody on the internet technically is world famous Berkshire. But God has given you a wonderful wide reach to bless a lot of people. So we’re thankful for that. And we were talking about that a little bit before we hit record. But it’s an interesting and wonderful time to be alive where you can share what you know, and people can be benefited by it all over the globe. So that’s awesome. Absolutely. And you you have the best and most explanatory URL Val worship vocalist calm. So everybody check it out. It’s a beautiful website and it explains exactly what she does. She teaches you how to be a better worship vocalist. So that’s what we’re gonna be talking about. Today, we’re gonna be talking about singing, we’re going to be talking about how to improve our own singing. And then we’re going to be talking about how to improve the vocalists in our ministries and help them sing with more confidence, excellence and passion. So I’d love to know first of all, Charmaine, like what are some of the biblical principles that you lay down when you’re taking on a new student? Or you’re preparing a new video lesson? Like, why do we sing? Why should we seek to improve our voice? And really, what is God’s word say about any of this singing stuff?

Charmaine Brown 04:42 Sure. So I mean, the Bible refers to singing pretty much nonstop, right? There are over 400 reference to singing it commands us to sing over 50 times psalms is literally it’s a book of songs, right? Psalm 33 tells us to Play skillfully, I think that applies to our voices as well, right? Our voice as an instrument. So, so important. And God cares about this stuff. Like, I really believe he cares about this stuff, the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, I, I always go back to that with my students. And in the videos that I create, the master goes on a trip, and he gives the, you know, the five bags of gold, two bags of gold, one bag of gold. And we all know the story, five big man and the two big men go off and multiply, they double what they were given. And the one bag man, just, what’s interesting to me is that he doesn’t squander it. Like he doesn’t lose it, right. But he doesn’t multiply it, he just he doesn’t do anything with it. And the master returns, and is very upset with him and calls him wicked and lazy. Because he was not a good steward with what he was given. Right. So that, to me says that we have a responsibility to be good stewards with what with what God has given us with our skills and our talents. And to not just seek to maintain, but to multiply it right. So that’s what I’m always, you know, encouraging my students and my subscribers to, to not just settle for, you know, the default of what your voice does not just settle for, yeah, my voice flips, it cracks, it breaks it. Whatever, I have this amount of range. Do I think that everyone needs to improve their voice? Absolutely not. Do I believe God loves loves your voice as you worship? Yes, absolutely, he does. But I’m talking about worship leaders and worship vocalists, specifically, if we are leading people on stage, we have a responsibility to multiply our skill and our talent. And I’ve been reading through as many of us do at the beginning of the year, start over at the beginning of the Bible, right cover to cover. And I, to be honest, in many years past, I’ve kind of flown through some of those early books, you know, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, yeah, really kind of quickly. And this year, in these past weeks, I’ve really been intrigued reading, like, just reading the, the detail about the building of the tabernacle. And I just so much detail and God cares about this stuff. He cares about beauty, he cares about intricacy, and it’s all for His glory. And I believe that what he intends to fill with his glory, he cares that it be glorious, he cares that it be beautiful, he cares that we spend time with that, and he wants to fill our voices with his glory, right? He wants to fill our bodies as we lead worship with his glory. So yeah, so that that’s what I always go back to and encouraging my, my students and subscribers, that God cares about this stuff. It’s not for our glory, it’s not for our fame. It’s not so that we can hit high notes or low notes or whatever. It’s because He cares about us being good stewards of our instrument.

Alex Enfiedjian 08:24 That is such a great answer. And I’ve also been in those books too, as, as I’ve been going through the Bible again, for the new year. And I was struck by that as well that he wanted the skilled craftsmen to build his temper Ah, you know, he wanted people who were skillful in their craft, to build it. And, you know, it says in Scripture that God inhabits the praises of his people. So in a sense, whenever we are leading people in worship, we’re building a temple of praise. And we want to build that temple skillfully. You know. So, very interesting, very intriguing. Now, everybody has a voice, right? And so everybody’s commanded to use that voice to glorify God, just like we’re called to use everything to glorify God. Why do you think the voice specifically is such a powerful tool?

Charmaine Brown 09:08 Sure. So I mean, when it when it comes down to kind of just the core basic of it, singing is vibration. It is sound frequencies, there have been so many studies on how singing is so good for our health, it’s so good for our well being boosts our immune system and it’s a powerful thing to sing to actually opt for our vocal cords to be vibrating for our body to be vibrating that way. And it’s also powerful to be sung over right it’s it’s all vibrations we can’t see them but it is happening right like that’s how God created it. I think singing you know, the the voice and singing in the context of worship and congregational worship. You know, songs are powerful because they help us remember words right melodies are powerful melodies. with lyrics together helps us remember the word of God. Right worship songs. It amazes me, you know, Jason and I and my husband and I both grew up in the church. And so you know, we know all the the oldies, the old songs, and sometimes we’ll just get on these tracks or somebody will start, one of us will start singing in an old song, and then we’ll just kind of go off on this that reminds me of that one, and we just kind of Medley and it amazes me that some of the songs I literally probably haven’t thought of, for 20 years, 20 years. And I know every word and I know every bit of that melody, like how, how does that work? Right, like, but our brain has the capacity to remember things that have been put into song, on our voice in our brain have muscle memory for that, right. So, yeah, it’s it’s a powerful thing.

Alex Enfiedjian 10:56 Yeah, that’s so cool. And I’ve heard stories of like, you know, people with Alzheimer’s, and they’re in bed, they can’t remember anyone around them. But when you start to sing Amazing Grace, all of a sudden, they come awake, become alive. I’ve seen a video of it on YouTube. Yeah, this guy’s singing Amazing Grace, every word, you know. And so you’re right. It’s so powerful. And I was just thinking to like, our voice is what we use to express what’s in our mind and in our heart, too. So I think that’s why it’s powerful. Also, because that’s the only tool like a guitar. Yeah, you can express kind of your feeling. But you can’t use words with a guitar, you know. So your voice allows you to say to God and to others, like what’s inside of you. And so that’s, that’s,

Charmaine Brown 11:37 it’s the, it’s the only instrument that is, it is a body instrument, it has our whole body, right, which is, is powerful, because like you said it, it can express our innermost being right, we actually express it with our body, it comes out of us. But on the, you know, on the same token, it’s the most vulnerable instrument, because of that, right? Meaning, like, it’s very easy for to feel vulnerable about our voice. And if we, for example, get feedback from our worship pastor, or whatever on our voice, that can feel like an attack against me and who I am. Whereas if I play piano, and you give me some feedback on on how I play, might not like to receive that criticism. But at the same time, I go away and say, Yeah, I need to practice that. I need to get better than that. It’s not like it’s not me. Yeah, right. So yeah, yeah, I just I know, I hear from a lot of worship leaders all the time that they feel discouraged, because they’ve been given feedback on their voice, and it just feels like it’s a part of them. So they feel judged, right?

Alex Enfiedjian 12:50 Yeah. No, that’s such a great point. And, you know, thinking about it practically. And I wasn’t planning on asking this. But, you know, I actually have a guy who sent me a video of him singing because he’s interested in serving with us. And honestly, it’s just, it’s straight up bad. And I have no problem speaking the truth in love to people in an encouraging way, explaining, you know why he won’t be a good fit. But how should we? So let’s say I’m the one receiving critical feedback about my voice, not the one giving it? How should I or how should that guy when he gets that feedback about his voice? It’s such a vulnerable thing. What do you tell people? How should they respond to that? exhortation, that encouragement, that feedback, that criticism?

Charmaine Brown 13:30 Hmm, it’s a hard one, it’s a hard one. Because the truth is, a lot of times that feedback was not necessarily spoken in love. And so I’m always encouraging worship pastors and directors, to be very careful with your words, as you give feedback to somebody because, I mean, even just in my experience in my life, when I was in grade five, a girl told me that I didn’t have a good voice and that I shouldn’t sing. And I don’t I don’t even know what my voice sounded like back then. I don’t think it was terrible. The truth was, she wanted to be the only one to sing at the school recital, talent show, kind of thing. And so she she said that out of spite, right. And but it affected me so much that I didn’t sing for years. Like I, I literally did not open my mouth for years and years until I was well into my teenage years. My later teenage years. I literally lip synced, happy birthday at birthday parties. I lip synced in church, because I felt so vulnerable. And that was a kid telling me that, but I know that’s been the experience of many teenagers and adult who’s, you know, maybe it’s their parent who said something or their worst Director or in response to, you know, on an audition, like you’re talking about or an audition video or whatever. So anyways, I know that’s kind of beside the point. But I’m just always saying, you know, be very, be very mindful of your words. And don’t make them feel like you’re writing them off forever. Give them K, I’d love you to work on this, I’d love you to work on this, and this and this, and point them towards some resources that they can use for that and tell them feel free to to send in another video, feel free to come back in six months. And we’ll talk about this again. That’s so different than just, you know, we’re well, yeah. I mean, hopefully, nobody says that. But you know what I’m talking about. But yeah, in receiving in receiving the the feedback, the criticism on the other side, ah, I just think that you got, you got to take it to the Holy Spirit and just say, Holy Spirit helped me to let go of the burden of this, I don’t want to I don’t want to carry that. And anything that wasn’t spoken in love. Let that fall away. Right. I released that in Jesus name. And whatever was truth, give me give me clarity, give me wisdom about what I should be working on, on what I can be doing to improve because usually there is truth in those things that have been said, right. So I think it should be, you know, if you’ve been given feedback about your voice, pick yourself up. It’s hard. I know, but work on your voice. Because there’s so much this is the encouraging thing that I’ve learned as a vocal coach, is that there is so much that we can do to improve our voices. Nobody needs to resign themselves to where your waist is at currently. You don’t need to box yourself into that.

Alex Enfiedjian 16:53 Yeah. And before I ask you the next question, I just want to kind of highlight something the enemy was, you know, trying to stop or attack your area of giftedness and calling. You know, like, imagine if you let that girls words that lie reverberate in your mind forever, and when it would have stopped your calling, and you wouldn’t not just lead worship in your church, but equip 1000s and 1000s of worship leaders all over the world who are now equipping their or leading their churches better because because the enemy would have stopped you in your area of giftedness. So I praise God that you just rebuke that lie eventually and got over it. And that’s, that’s awesome. Now most people that are listening have not been professionally trained in their vocals, right? And you’re dealing with a lot of people coming to you saying I want to improve, but they’ve never been trained professionally. So when dealing with us amateurs, what are some of the common problems that you see in worship vocalists? What are the big areas that need work most of the time?

Charmaine Brown 17:55 Yeah, so I’d say most worship team singers, they lack confidence because their voice doesn’t just doesn’t do what they want it to do. Either. They can’t hit the high notes, they can’t hit the low notes or their voices, you know, doing you know the flip the crack right in the middle, as it goes over the break, as many people call it the transition spot. And usually the reason is because they’re either singing all in their chest voice, do you want me to just demonstrate that or people. So if they’re singing on their chest was there meaning where the sound is vibrating, kind of in the mouth and upper chest cavity. You have no rival, you have no equal, right? So we’re not hitting those higher notes on pitch because we’re pushing up our chest voice to them. And the voice gets tired out gets strained. That’s a lot of a lot of worship teams. Singers complain that their voice is just so tired after singing on a Sunday, especially if they have multiple services. Other singers, they’re okay with the high notes. But the low notes get weak. You have no rival you have no equals the name of Jesus Christ by King, they can’t get down there. Because they’re keeping the sound. It’s opposite from trespass. They’re keeping their sound all up in the head cavity. Other singers use both their chest voice and their head voice, but it’s gonna flip you know, you know, cool, right? That makes that makes most people not want to pick up a microphone ever again. Right when that’s happening. And so what I specifically trained singers to do is to to get out of the the boxes that they’ve sung in either only chest voice or only head voice or using both of those and flipping in the middle and learning how to sing in a mix voice which is a blended tone of their chest voice, head voice and what we call the pharyngeal, which is the middle space in the face that ah Na na na na which is anybody’s watched any of my videos they’ve heard of, they’ve heard probably heard me talk about the pharyngeal that middle space awesome. Because we have to do crazy exercises where we have

Unknown Speaker 20:15 ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne ne Wham. Wham. Wham. Wham. Wham. Wham. Wham. Wham.

Charmaine Brown 20:20 Wham. But the, and I know it sounds ugly. It sounds crazy. But the beautiful thing about that sound is it’s not my chest voice. And it’s not my head voice. It’s actually a blend of all three. So I can go,

Unknown Speaker 20:33 Well, well, well, well, where you have no rival, you have no equal now and God,

Charmaine Brown 20:42 you rain. And it’s not flipping anymore. It’s not bottoming out on the lower notes. It’s not coming to a ceiling on the high notes, because I’ve learned to blend all three. And that when singers learn how to do that, that honestly solves most of their issues with range, pitch, tone, all the things, man, She’s

Alex Enfiedjian 21:03 good. She’s good. You know, someone’s really, really, really good when they can purposefully do things badly, you know, but even when they do them badly, they still sound good doing them. So we obviously we know you have a lot of control and experience. I already have some young singers on my team, some up and comers that I’m going to, like forced to sign up for your courses. But um, I think I’m allowed to force people to do stuff as a worship pastor, I’m not sure but hey, well, if you pay for them, and that’s Yes, of course, we would definitely do that. So, man, that is so cool. So that that’s really the biggest issue is the confidence that comes from being able to control your voice. And I always tell people, you don’t want to be nervous on stage. So do what you have to do offstage to feel confident onstage, which means lots of reps, lots of practice, you don’t want to get on stage and not have control over your instrument, and in this case, your voice. And so I mean, I think that’s, that’s so cool. And I’m sure we’ll get into more demonstrations in a bit. I’d love to hear because it was so when you combine all your head voice, chest voice and your what your nose voice arranger knows what that’s good. That’s I’ll just call it nose voice. Sounds good. Because I’m, I’m Armenian, and we have big noses. But it was so powerful, right? It brought so much passion and power and energy. When you sing that final time, I would love for you to help us understand the difference from like, worship, versus like artistic performance? And how should we think about the term performance in worship in general?

Charmaine Brown 22:37 Sure. I always like to encourage singers to not be afraid of artistry to not be afraid of improving our skill and being able to do great things with our voice, being able to do beautiful things with our voice, because like we were talking about earlier, I think God cares about these things. I think he loves beauty, he loves artistry, because that’s who he is. He’s a beautiful god, he’s a glorious God. And when our voice can do beautiful things, that’s that’s actually a reflection of His glory and his beauty. Right? So, yes, I’m not against the word performance, per se. I mean, at the, you know, the definition, I don’t know the exact definition of it. But basically, it is, you know, doing doing a task, right, like executing a task or duty kind of thing. And so, I don’t think singers should be afraid of improving our skill. I think a lot of singers are because they equate that with pride, they equate, you know, doing great things with your voice with like, no, that’s to show me that should never be on a church stage. From my perspective, I think it’s totally okay to be artistic with our voice. But we have to remember that our primary goal is to lead our congregations without distraction. And so excuse me, in the same way, as you know, off pitch notes are a distraction, an unpleasant sounding tone is a distraction, you know, a harmony in a lead vocal that are clashing with each other, though that’s distracting to a congregation being led in worship too much down the road of unique artistry, too many licks and trills and runs and embellishments to you know, phrasing that’s really, really unique and artistic, some of those things that to me, is a distraction to leading our congregation in worship. So I think there’s a line there’s a balance that we have to find if that makes sense. And I think it comes down to our heart and I think as worship leaders, we have to be constantly examining our heart and saying, you know, am I doing this because Cuz I want God to get the glory, because my voice is a reflection of His glory and his beauty, or am I doing this? Because I want some of that glory, right? You know, I can choose a high key for a song because my voice goes up to that high note, and I can embellish it. And I can do a Big Lick on that, hi, no, I can do a big ad lib, all for God’s glory. And because my voice can do it, and I’ve trained my voice, and I, I just I love to give him glory. Or I can do that because I secretly, I want people to think, Wow, look at what her voice can do. And those are, those are two completely different stories, right?

Alex Enfiedjian 25:39 Yeah, that’s so good. Because you’re addressing in that answer the heart side of it, which anybody can try to grab glory. But our heart should always be to serve people and point them to Jesus. But also, you’re addressing the technical side of like, yes, you can do a run, but don’t let it distract from people being able to engage with the Lord, like it should only add. And it’s a balance, like you said, and it takes some some practice to figure out how much is too much in one of my courses. And this is not a like a plug or anything. But like I do talk about what it means to sing simply, we want to sing simply because we want to give the congregation a track to follow like, it’s easy for them to follow along. But we also want to add the embellishments that do evoke more emotion and more passion. And, you know, there’s different ways to do that, like, embellishing the end of a note so that, you know, there are they’ve already sung the note and you’re embellishing the end of it and other things like that. So absolutely check out the you can check out the courses later, but and you should definitely check out Shawn’s courses, because they’re way better than mine. Okay, so Yes, they are. I already know for a fact. But let’s talk about this. What are some things that we can do? We’ll talk about our own voice and then we’ll we’ll move into a time of talking about our singers on our teams voices. But let’s first talk about ours. What can we do to improve and strengthen our voice like easy to do often overlooked things? What are some things we should be doing to improve and strengthen our voices?

Charmaine Brown 27:05 Yeah, so first of all, warming up on Sunday mornings That to me is that that’s a non negotiable for all worship teams thing I should be doing it I hear a lot of people say well, I’ve never warmed up and my voice works just fine on a Sunday morning. Okay, but it might not work long term. Honestly, I’ve known so many worship leaders worship pastors who they didn’t take care of their instrument, they didn’t take care of their voice. And they thought it was all working fine. They thought it was email maybe my voice just gets a little bit tired after Sunday, but then all of a sudden, their voice just gives out on them and they have to some have had to get vocal surgery to remove nodules some have to you know go on rest vocal rest for a few months which you know, for most of us we need our voice for our job so it’s it’s not realistic to be having to take months of you know, vocal rest so having a good warm up I’ve got a warm up that people can download the worship book slash free warm up we’ve got a video where I teach about the importance of warming up how to warm up and then a downloadable audio warm up one for guys that link in the show notes free Yeah, yeah. Worship vocalist calm slash free warm up. So warming up the voice that that’s the most important thing people can do just for cuz it’s it’s not in our most of us. We sing on Sunday mornings. That’s not easy on the voice singing early in the morning is not easy on the voice. So we have to take extra care of our instrument. But beyond that, to actually improve our voices, is training our voice with vocal exercises doing some of the stuff that I was talking about before. So we’ve got three resonators, chest head and pharyngeal chest voice resonates in the mouth. Ah, so doing exercises like yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, that workout and specifically workout isolate that part of our voice. head voice resonates in the upper nasal cavity and head cavity. We’re

Charmaine Brown 29:21 doing exercises that specifically isolate that. Work on that, and then the pharyngeal which is right in the middle of the toots where the sound is buzzing air buzzing right in the middle of the face. Wow. Namie mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee, mee, mee, mee mee, things like that. Got all that stuff in my courses. So working on these different resonators, these different parts of the voice is training the voice to know where to sit training the resonance to know where to sit is training the vocal cords to be in the most efficient coordinations for every note that we sing for every volume that we sing, so we can have different, you know, dynamics in our songs. So I recommend singers work out their voice three to five times a week. Voice works very similarly to other muscles in our body or our muscles, God designed them to respond to exercise. So when we if you go to the gym consistently, and you’re eating right, and you know, doing all the things, you can expect your body to go through a transformation, you can expect your muscles to get stronger and respond to that. If you work out your voice. Using strategic exercises, there’s no way that your voice will not improve and strengthen and be able to hit higher notes and lower notes and be able to mix resonators, like I was talking about to get that powerful, contemporary sound. So warming up, working out the voice. Those are I’d say the two, two big things speak ease. Yeah,

Alex Enfiedjian 30:58 pray and read your Bible. It’s always back to the basics. Right? Exactly. Now, what about learning to find your own style or your own tone? Like by listening to other singers and mimicking them? Or like what would you say about some of that stuff?

Charmaine Brown 31:15 Yeah, I think I think learning to you know, listening to other singers, learning to mimic people, I think that’s a really important part of our, our journey as a singer. Some people think, Oh, no, I don’t want to mimic other singers. I just want to find my own unique style. But actually the the listening and forming our opinions and, and even trying things out in our voice to see what can my voice? Do? What kind of comes naturally to me? What doesn’t come? naturally to me? I think that’s really important. I think that our end goal should never be, I want to sound exactly like Kim Walker, I want to sound exactly like Carrie job. I don’t think that’s a healthy perspective to have. But, you know, I can say I love to have power in my voice like, Kim does, I’d love to be able to hit those high notes like Carrie does, like kind of picking different things and strengths of singers that we love to listen to. And love to mimic and saying, I’d love that. I want to train my voice to do that. Yeah,

Alex Enfiedjian 32:23 yeah, I agree. They are Kim Walker Smith, and carry Jove, you are you be you? Yeah, totally. Exactly. That’s good. So let’s switch now to our ministries to our people that they sing background vocals, or, or they lead a song or to talk to us about the difference between lead vocals and background vocals.

Charmaine Brown 32:44 So I like to say everybody on stage is leading everybody on stage as a worship leader. And I like everybody to think of themselves as that because if you start to think of yourself as secondary in the background, not as important, you’re not going to lead with your stage presence, you’re not going to lead with your body, you’re not going to lead with your facial expressions, nearly as much as if you you know, be yourself I think musicians and singers, we’re all worship leaders on stage. But in terms of worship leader, voice, background, vocal voice, I mean, it’s right there in the name Background Vocal when I’m the worship leader, I do try to stand out I do lead confidently and passionately and I will, you know, I will use my unique tone and style and phrasing as I lead. When I’m the background vocalist, I need to get in the back seat, right? And actually not use my unique tone and style and phrasing and vibrato, but aim to blend in with the worship leader so we always as backup vocalists we always have to be listening very very intently to the worship leaders voice because everybody has different voices right so and even this resonance stuff I was talking about that is what makes every singers tone sound different from one another somebody like we were talking about Kim Walker Smith, hers is a more chest dominant mix voice tone, whereas carry job is a more head voice dominant mix voice tone, if that makes sense. And so if I were singing background vocalists, you know in different sets behind either of them, I would make my voice sound very different behind them behind Kim, I would sound more chest dominant with my harmonies, right I would get that fuller tone behind carry job I would lighten it up a bit more I would allow more head voice into my tone so that I can blend in so that my voice doesn’t stand out. So that’s tonally other things like phrasing we have to be listening to when are they coming into their words? When are they coming off of their words? Not using a lot of S’s and hard consonants who as backup vocalists, you know, sometimes not even fully forming the ends of our words. Because if we have too many singers singing the daris that can be distracting vibrato, you know, singing generally background vocalists singing with less vibrato because when we have multiple vocalists singing Oh, a lot of Bravo, that can clash. So yeah, just aiming to blend in and, and match or kind of stay under the tone, phrasing volume.

Alex Enfiedjian 35:38 I love that. Yeah, I love that, you know, the point you made about the consonants is one that’s often overlooked, background vocalist shouldn’t be harsh or hard on their consonants, you really barely put out the T’s and the S’s in the Ks and all that, right. Yeah. But that’s something that not a lot of people think about. But that’s a huge one. And I always just tell my singers, tone and timing, you know, match the tone and the timing. But you said all that very well. Now, what about building a song as a background vocalist, you know, my worship leaders leading a song, when should I come in? What should I sing? How do I build a song dynamically? You know, we don’t want people singing the whole time. But we also don’t want them only coming in on like the chorus. So how do you teach background singers to know how to build a song? Maybe their worship leader doesn’t give them much direction? So how should they approach that?

Charmaine Brown 36:28 Right? I would love for this to become more of the culture of teams to be talking about this stuff. And if your worship leader doesn’t give you direction, ask. And if they say I don’t care, say whenever you want, then yes, we do have certain principles that are good to put into play. But I wish that more worship teams and more vocal teams would talk through this kind of stuff, because it is very important. But I always like to think of, you know, where are the biggest points in the song, where do we want to build to dynamically So usually, that’s going to be you know, sometimes the second chorus gets quite big, but definitely the, if the bridge repeats, those later bridge repeats, the final choruses are going to be those big places. So that’s where you want, you know, the most volume the most people singing, and the most harmonies and all the other sections of the song, we have to think about how we’re going to build to that so that it creates this dynamic sound journey. So usually, I recommend the first verse being a solo, I don’t, people can react to the word solo. It’s not a solo verb performance, but meaning just one person singing vainly because that gives the most amount of room to grow, right? If you start with multiple or even two vocalists singing, you’ve already you’ve taken away that first level that you could have started with. So start with one single vocalist, and then you know first chorus, it depends on if it’s a more upbeat song or a slower song. If it’s a more upbeat song, you might have everybody come in or a couple people come in singing unison. If it’s a slower song, you might have that solo vocal continue until verse two, maybe adding one harmony there. verse two, either, maybe two vocalists, you might have them singing unison, you might have one singing harmony, maybe everybody on unison but again, saving room for that next chorus, we’re looking to add a layer kind of each time if there’s three part harmony, I like to save that for the end of the song a lot of teams will bring that in like right away in the first chorus. I think that should be saved for like, bridge repeats and final choruses and just stick with you know, there’s nothing wrong with having multiple singers singing melody I think that actually creates such strength for the congregation to follow to have multiple singers melody and a couple people singing the same harmony. I think that can be be really good.

Alex Enfiedjian 39:06 Yeah, that’s so good. I think if we error we err on the side of doing the harmonies all three harmonies too early, I still think we’re it’s not like we’re super off point like it’s still mostly following what you’re laying out here but I do know sometimes I’ll do by the first chorus I’ll be singing the harmony underneath someone. And I should probably just say that till the third chorus you know, or till the bridge. Or like sometimes in verse two, we’ll have a lead and then a top harmony and then I’ll come in like halfway through verse two with like, the bottom harmony right before the second chorus you know, and that’s another thing too is people can do is they can just harmonize certain phrases of words or like bring the harmony in as like the transitional point between the verse and the chorus and those types of things. So yeah, that’s all really good. Now real quick, though about harmony. You know, I know a lot of worship leaders who when they’re not leading a song if someone else on My team is leading, they don’t know how to sing harmony, so they just don’t sing at all, which then it’s kind of a wasted microphone. It’s a wasted, you know, empty spot that could be used more beautifully. How do you teach people to hear harmony for the worship leaders listening who can’t sing harmony, but want to learn so that they can add that extra? How do you teach people to hear harmonies

Charmaine Brown 40:22 totally. And I just I just want to say something that will relate to both this question and the last question that I think all singers should sing all the time, just not into their microphone, when we’re talking about when we’re talking about, you know, a solo vocal and the first verse and maybe adding one vocal on, you know, the chorus, and maybe you have five or six singers on stage. I think all of those singers should be singing all the time, just with your microphone down. So, let me just, I just, I just want to clarify that because that his band and the band, and the band should be saying

Alex Enfiedjian 40:58 yes, all the musicians so i think so I think it really it adds to the culture in the room of this is a corporate everybody sings experience.

Charmaine Brown 41:07 Yeah. 100% 100% Okay, so, yes, harmony. So yeah, learning harmony. Okay, so harmony is a lot like learning a foreign language, right? Like if, if you were I wanted to learn a new language, we could go out and do that we could get resources. And we could learn how to do that. And the reason why we can learn a foreign language is because it all sounds like gibberish when you don’t know it. But when you actually take time to learn it, you realize, oh, it makes sense. Those sounds actually they make sense. When you break them down, and you learn first you learn the building blocks, the very basic things in that language, and then you you learn how to put them together and, and you can get more complex with it. And it all makes sense to our brain, right? The language is not random. And so similar with harmony, it’s not random. It boils down to basic math and science. And math makes sense to our brain, right, like harmonious notes. The reason why those notes harmonize with each other is because they’re everything is vibrations, everything is frequencies, it’s because of those notes have frequencies that they line up with each other, they divide into each other with simple ratios, right, as opposed to those, those two frequencies don’t divide into each other with simple ratios, so they don’t sound harmonious to our ears. So if we want to learn harmonies, we have to learn the basic building blocks of harmony, which is intervals, right. So especially, you know, in most contemporary worship songs, the third, the fourth, the fifth, and learning, those make sense to our ears when we can learn that. So I like to teach singers, I have a course on harmony on my site, to train your ear to hear the saints learn it using easy songs, remember, oh, this aids comes the bride, there’s that fourth, Twinkle, twinkle. And there’s my fifth, learning those in there. There’s other intervals, we’ve learned about learning those basic intervals training, you’re here to hear those quickly and becoming just really comfortable with those. And then you’ll start to hear them in, in songs, right, you’ll you’ll be able to start adding them above and below. So it’s same as math, it comes more easily. For some people, some people can just pick things up like this. Some people it takes a little bit more time, especially if you didn’t grow up. You know, hearing a lot of harmonies and singing a lot of harmonies, you didn’t learn it naturally. But it can absolutely be learned. You just have to break it down to the simple components.

Alex Enfiedjian 44:06 Yeah. And then the last thing I like to tell people to learn is like when you listen to songs from now on, only listen to the harmonies and like just try to hear it over and over and over and over and over. And they’ll soon it’ll start to make sense to your brain just like you said a foreign language does with repetition. So yeah, absolutely. You know, as we begin wrapping it up, like you said, I wish more worship ministries had a culture of taking their vocals seriously. So what are some things that you’ve seen churches do that have really brought the best out of their vocal teams, whether it’s, you know, something that you encourage local directors or worship leaders to do at their churches or something you’ve seen at another church? What are the best practices to bring the best out of our singers?

Charmaine Brown 44:50 I think that we have to set our singers up for success in as many ways as we can if we if we set each you know individual singer up for success. We’re setting our team up for success. And there are a lot of ways we can do this. One is, you know, we were talking about the how to build a song dynamically. Don’t leave that up to each individual singer to decide, I think, I think it’s great when we can, as the worship leader or worship director, whoever you want to make in charge of that, actually creating a song layout for each song. And this is what I do when I’m worship leading, I actually send this out in the email, put it on Planning Center. For my singers, I say, I’m going to solo lead this first verse, and then I want Britney to come in and sing a lower harmony with me just really nice and light on that first chorus, that I want all the singers to come in, we’re going to sing in unison here. I want to do this dun dun dun data and go all through the song. I’m laying out,

Alex Enfiedjian 45:50 you know, like an Excel spreadsheet, or like, what’s the format of a text message? Or usually,

Charmaine Brown 45:56 yeah, usually just a, just a not like a spreadsheet or anything. I just usually in an email or just on a, like a PDF kind of thing? I’d love to

Alex Enfiedjian 46:06 I mean, do you have the like, is it on the lyrics? Oh, like, is there?

Charmaine Brown 46:11 No, I haven’t I haven’t done it on. I haven’t done it on the lyrics. I’ve just kind of written it out on what to do. Yeah, okay. Yeah, got it. I think you could get as complex as you want to. But the truth is, most vocalists aren’t used to getting any direction at all. Just kind of easing them into it. So having a plan and communicating that plan. reminding them of that. And don’t be afraid to be detailed, right. Like, it helps people prepare the app. So So setting them up for success with that. Also setting our singers up for success by knowing their voice and giving them if if we’re assigning songs for a person to lead or if we’re assigning a key for a person to lead in, setting them up for success by knowing what their voice does best in putting them in their sweet spot, right. Like if if a singers, you know maybe they haven’t trained their voice to sing super high yet, and you give them a song that’s out of their range, they’re not going to have a lot of confidence in leading right, like put them put them in their sweet spot, put them where their voice performs best. And then thirdly, then the kind of off of that, give them resources that can help them get to the next level, give them feedback, I think, I think having a culture of feedback is a really important thing. If you just do it once in a while and it’s only criticism then that’s that doesn’t help people a lot. But I know teams who it’s just it’s a part of their culture, too. You know, every weekend after the service, all the vocalists get feedback. You know, I touch base with each of the vocalists and say, love when you did this love. That was awesome. This was great. Love that transition, loved your ad libs there. I’d love you to work on your pitch, especially in this song or when you get into that higher range or your voices flipping into head voice there. I’d love to do some workouts working out your higher range, like give them specific things that they can be working on and point them to resources that can help them do that.

Alex Enfiedjian 48:24 That’s so good. So many golden nuggets. In this episode. Now what about, like vocal rehearsals? I know some churches, they’ll send the vocalist to the back while the band works out the parts on stage. Have you seen that work? And if so, what are some best practices there?

Charmaine Brown 48:41 Yeah, I haven’t been a part of a lot of, you know, I grew up at the same church for my dad’s a pastor 25 years. And I’ve been going to the you know, the church we’ve been attending just for the past three years. Well, I’ve only experienced kind of two things myself. I’ve heard what other people do. But I grew up with the band and vocalists separating off at the beginning of rehearsal. I think that’s super effective. I recommend that. For much of that time. Actually, I played backup keys in the band. So actually, for me, this was in the era of the backup keys played the trumpet parts, okay, so but our church at our church it was the vocalist in the church basement and the band on stage and it was me and the trumpet player practicing like the trumpet parts for like the shout of the king is among us like old Hillsong songs. But then I did start singing on the team and our our vocalists would do like 45 minutes in the separately, we do a vocal warmup. It’s great if you can get your vocalists encourage them to warm up before they come to rehearsal. But a lot of people I find if it’s a weeknight, they’re coming rushed maybe from work or from supper. So taking 10 or 15 minutes to do a vocal warm up and together and then you can kind of make sure people are kind of hitting on these different points in their voice even use it as a teaching moment. And then spending some time going through the different harmony parts and talking again through the song layouts and stuff. I think that works super well.

Alex Enfiedjian 50:20 Yeah, well as the listeners can hear, and maybe see if we put this on YouTube. You have so much wisdom and knowledge in this area. And so I’d love for you to tell them like where can they find you? Where can they get these courses? And what you know, what do they get? What do you offer? And just where can they keep up with you online?

Charmaine Brown 50:40 Sure, well, you can check out our YouTube channel and worship vocalist got lots of free stuff there I do some tutorials from from time to time that’s how most people kind of stumble across my stuff because they’re nice Hi, you know just searching YouTube for how to sing what a beautiful name or how to sing battle alongs or whatever and then they stumble across a song tutorial that I’ve done. But then our site the worship vocalist, calm, I’ve got four main courses on there, discover your voice, which is a six week kind of working on the foundational things in your voice working on some of these things. We talked about chest voice head voice pharyngeal voice, mixed voice learning to get that contemporary sound. Master voice is a 30 lesson course that builds on discover your voice and and really works at mastering that contemporary next tone and gets into things, stylistic things vibrato, how to embellish phrasing, all that kind of stuff, finding your unique tone, got a mobile health course taking care of your voice, Harmony essentials for worship chorus, which does all the things that we talked about, like learning intervals, learning those building blocks, learning how to apply them to songs. Yeah, and for each lesson, there’s the I’ve got a video lesson and then an audio workout that you can do, I recommend three to five times a week, you can just follow along, it’s got the scale, so you can just there’s no excuse. The demonstrations have got Jason, my husband did all the suckered him into doing the male demonstrations for me so that guys can hear kind of how it should sound in their voice. And yeah, so the worship.

Alex Enfiedjian 52:33 Yeah, so much good stuff. And guys, please check it out. I would say, Don’t you even offer like bundles for like, multiple, like if a worship leader wants to have six of his singers go through that they can get like, six? Yeah. So I would encourage vocalists or worship leaders to buy it for their church for their team. What is that possible?

Charmaine Brown 52:52 Yeah, for sure. So we’ve got you can sign up as an individual, we’ve got a monthly and yearly rate. So you can sign it, you can choose from that. But then we’ve got team subscriptions, you can for a lot less of a price than buying them. You know, for each of the individuals on your team, you can get like up to up to five people six to 10 people 10 to 25. However, however big your team is, you can choose that.

Alex Enfiedjian 53:18 That’s so good. So everybody go to the worship vocalist calm and sign up today. I know you’ve been talking for a long time, and you need to take a sip of water. But do you have any final words for our listeners? Oh, yeah,

Charmaine Brown 53:31 I think I said this before, but just don’t box yourself in to where your voice is at. Don’t be discouraged. I know a lot of singers, especially these days that, you know, a lot of churches have gone online. And it’s been a really discouraging thing for a lot of singers to hear, you know, if you’re doing live stream or you’re doing pre recorded sets or whatever. A lot of singers have not really taken the time to or not not taking the time, but they’ve never really heard their voice much before except just singing live in the room. And it can be really discouraging, and a really weird strange thing to hear your voice back, you know, over the live stream. And I just a lot of singers just have told me they just they feel like quitting they feel like giving up because their voices. They don’t like the way that it sounds. But don’t box yourself into that don’t resign yourself to you know, I only have a small amount of range. I can’t hit high notes. I can’t sing this song. I can’t do this or that because I’ve seen it in my own voice. I think this is probably one of my biggest strengths as a coach is that I didn’t grow up singing I didn’t grow up wanting to be a singer or a worship leader or you know, have any big desires. I didn’t go to school for music, like in when I did start singing was because my youth young adults pastor kind of pushed me into it a little bit but when I did start singing, I had a very Weak voice it did not do what I wanted to wanted it to do. I don’t have a lot of natural talent. I know a lot of singers who have a lot of natural talent. I am not one of them. I have built my voice from the ground up. And that’s why I know it can be done because I didn’t start with a lot. I didn’t start with being able to do a lot of this stuff with my voice. I worked on the basics. I worked on the foundations and have seen incredible things in my own voice and in my students voices so I know it can be done for you. We believe

Alex Enfiedjian 55:33 you, Charmaine, thank you so much for your time and your wisdom. I know you’ve helped a lot, a lot of worship leaders and hopefully worship leaders. I’m going to tell you send this episode to your singers. Please send it to your singers. help them improve. Okay, awesome. Thanks, Charmaine, for your time. Appreciate it. My pleasure. Thanks, Alex. All right. That’s it for this month’s episode. I hope you were helped by it. If you were please help us by sending it to every singer you know, anyone who sings send them this episode. Tell them hey, you really should listen to this. Also, be sure to check out the courses to help you be a confident excellent and successful worship leader by going to worship ministry training comm slash courses and entering the promo code WM t podcast at checkout to get 25% off. Alright, God bless you guys. I will see you next month for another helpful episode. See ya.